Last week I traveled with a group to explore the fall foliage and more. Our trip took us into Amish country in Ohio. Thankfully, our bus driver knew a shorter route into the area so we arrived ahead of schedule. Also, because we had a small group we were able to do things quicker so that we added two stops to our journey.
This was billed as the "brown bag" tour. At our first stop an Amish woman boarded the bus and welcomed us. She shared liberally throughout the trip about the Amish way of life, particularly about her family and her life.
Next, it was on to our guide's mother's home where we enjoyed cookies and coffee. After our treat her mother told about the fall duties such as harvest and canning. Some of those who were on the tour related to the canning portion. I could relate easily. I could even relate about canning without electricity.
When we first moved to Hickory Heights I cooked on a wood burning stove. That was a new adventure for me, but I was able to cope pretty well. We had wonderful meals that I cooked all on the wood stove. That same stove, a Home Comfort model, was our source of heat for a while since the house had a coal burning furnace that we did not use.
One weekend a friend who visited relatives in Portland came back with a basket of grapes for us. She asked if I could make grape jelly with them. I do not remember exactly how many half-pints the basket yielded, but I shared it with the little lady who gave me the grapes. She and her father were delighted to have homemade grape jelly. Of course, the whole process was completed on the wood stove.
The lady who fed us cookies also ran a bakery on her farm. We were invited to visit the shop which featured her delicious "fry pies." There were many things offered other than the fried pies. I chose to buy some pumpkin whoopie pies and a loaf of cinnamon bread. We all received a small loaf of pumpkin bread to celebrate the harvest brown bag tour. Cars maneuvered in and out of the driveway as we waited to board our bus. I think she must have a lucrative business. Everything I purchased was very tasty.
This year we were able to visit the apple orchard. Last year there were no apples. The orchard we visited was in Chardon, Ohio. I had passed a sign that said Chardon many times as we traveled back and forth to my daughter-in-law's old stamping grounds in Mentor, Ohio.
The orchard had baskets of samples by each variety that they offered. I chose to sample a Macoun since I had never tasted that variety. It was delicious - crisp, white and very sweet. We each received a bag of Cardinal apples to take with us. Many of us made purchases as well. I brought home a jar of cinnamon flavored apple butter. My grandson and granddaughter had helped make apple butter and cider the previous weekend.
I will probably make some of my own when I get enough apples. My recipe calls for blending up the apple pieces before adding them to the pot to cut down on the cooking time. I do not use a big kettle; I just cook it on my stove.
I like the bulk food stores because I always find supplies that are not offered around here. We had time for one of those on this trip. I had taken a list along - just in case. I was able to find all of the things on my list.
A delicious meat loaf dinner was served at an Amish home. This time it was Elizabeth's aunt who cooked for us. There were three choices of pie for dessert. I chose the elderberry pie since I had not had any of that in a very long time.
We used to have elderberries all over, but today it is hard to find them. I used to walk along the road and harvest the berries that I found. There were even some in the yard of one of the schools that I taught in. A thoughtful mother picked a whole bag for me one day. I either made elderberry pie or pot pie with biscuits. You have to add a little lemon juice for tartness. That was my father-in-law's favorite dessert.
This time we visited a different cheese factory. They did not happen to making any cheese that day, but I did find my favorite variety to bring some back with me. Since it is all wrapped in shrink wrap I will wait to open it until I have the children around. We have several fall birthdays to celebrate.
We also brought home a pie pumpkin to cook. Mine will either become a pie or maybe some soup. I really like pumpkin and squash soup.
A visit to the "Amish Wal-Mart" was an added stop that we fit in. They had so many things in that little store that in our short visit we could not see it all. I found a cooking fork that I had always wanted there.
The weather was gorgeous. It was mild and sunny. We could not have asked for a better day to enjoy the simplicity of Amish life and beauty of the colored leaves. I have tried many times to take pictures of the colorful countryside, but they never seem to come out as my eyes saw it. I just have to file away the images that my eyes collect.
There is no doubt about it; fall is a beautiful time of the year. Get out there and enjoy it.
Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa. Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org.